Attention turns to NBA season

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 5, 2000

With the NFL regular season completed and playoffs beginning, now is a good time to review the state of affairs in the NBA.

Los Angeles Lakers fans may have finally found the missing piece to their puzzle. The Lakers have had plenty of talent during the years but proved to be somewhat of an enigma.

Each season poor chemistry, egos and the opposing team would quickly show the Lakers the door during the playoffs.

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With the hiring of former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers have finally found the person the blend all the egos into a team. The Lakers currently sport the best record in the NBA at 25-5.

Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant have learned to live with each other and even share the ball on various trips up the court.

Jackson the &uot;Zen coach&uot; preaches team unity but isn’t afraid to tell the truth. Jackson has gone so far as to say Shaq will never be a &uot;complete player&uot; until he can start hitting free throws.

Good for Jackson. Free throws are always overlooked but often make the difference between a win or a loss.

The Portland Trailblazers look to be the Lakers competition in the West. Scottie Pippen has joined the likes of Rasheed Wallace, Brian Grant and Steve Smith to give the Blazers an All-Star attack.

Last year’s champion, the San Antonio Spurs sit on top of the Midwest Division. The twin towers of David Robinson and Tim Duncan prove to be deadly for most teams. The Spurs do miss small forward Sean Elliott who is out of the lineup after a kidney transplant.

Poised in second place are the Utah Jazz. After a sluggish start, the Jazz are starting to hit on all cylinders. The attack is the same – Stockton to Malone.

The jury is out on the Jazz. Many feel the team has gotten too old to compete. Time will only tell if veteran guile wins out over youthful exuberance.

The Miami Heat are currently in first place of the Atlantic Division. Nipping at their heels are their arch rivals, the New York Knicks.

To say these two teams hate each other in an understatement. The Atlantic Division champ will probably come from either Miami or New York.

Larry Bird has his Indiana Pacers in the drivers seat of the Central Division. Bird has said he will step down as coach after this season. The Pacers, like the Jazz, have been together for a long time. It is now or never for this current group of players.

The Pacers should keep watch on the Charlotte Hornets. Since Paul Silas has taken over the team, the Hornets are playing up to their potential.

Teams to look out for are the Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers.

The Bucks feature the one-two punch of Glenn Robinson and Ray Allen. The key for the Bucks will be the play of point guard Sam Cassell.

The Kings return with their brash in-your-face style of play. Jason Williams and Chris Webber could rival Stockton and Malone if they show some maturity.

If the NBA Finals were today, I&160;would have to say it would be the Lakers and the Heat fighting for the title. Of course, there is still a lot of basketball left to be played in the regular season.

The time is now for teams to start positioning themselves for home court advantage in the playoffs.

Tim Isbell is creative director at The Democrat. He can be reached at 446-5172 ext. 233 or by e-mail at